Engine hoist for a heavy dog

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This article demonstrates how to use an engine hoist for a heavy dog. An engine hoist is helpful if you cannot lift your dog to his feet when he goes down, or if you need assistance putting him in a wheelchair. It may be the wisest way to lift your dog if he is very heavy or you have a back problem, because once you injure your back lifting him, you will be unable to give him the care he needs. A hoist may extend the life of your pet and save you medical bills.

If your dog has a spinal injury, an orthopedic problem, or has had surgery recently, using a hoist could be harmful. Please check with your vet before using a hoist on your dog.


(Click photos to enlarge)



An engine hoist can tip over. The hoist lifts 2000 lbs safely with the hook in the position intended by the manufacturer, close to the center of the machine. It is not designed to lift a load out beyond the feet. Lifting a load out beyond the feet increases the risk of tipping. The further out the load, the greater the risk of tipping. The more the load weighs, the greater the risk. Some large dogs weigh more than a hoist.

The following pictures show a hoist extended in a way it was not designed for. I extended the arm of the hoist out beyond the feet to make it easier to position the trapeze over my dog's bed. If you extend the hoist as shown, test it with a load that equals or exceeds the weight of your pet. If you weigh more than your dog, you can test it by pulling down on the trapeze carefully yourself to see what happens. If your dog weighs more than you do, you may want to ask a friend to help you. I tested my hoist with the extension by putting all my weight on it and there was no sign of tipping, so I know it is safe for my 55-lb dog.

If you have a really heavy dog, extending the hoist is not recommended, however you can still use it. The legs of the hoist are wide enough apart to surround a large dog and allow lifting without an extension.

As you lift your pet, he may try to scramble to his feet and lose his balance suddenly, which will affect the stability of the hoist. When the load leaves the ground it may swing, causing the hoist to tip. It is safest to lift your pet no higher than necessary, particularly if you want to turn the hoist in another direction, roll it around, or back it up. Rolling the wheels over an uneven surface, such as from carpet to tile, or using it on a slope such as a ramp, increases the risk of tipping.


I have not had a problem with the hoist rolling while I lift my dog on the carpet. When I used it on the kitchen floor, it rolled unexpectedly. One wheel was resting on the edge of an area rug. As I began hoisting my dog, it rolled off the rug onto the wood floor, nearly rolling over my dog's paw. Safety instructions say to chock the wheels of a hoist before lifting the load, but I do not know how you would get a wheel chock to stay in place on a slippery floor. Be especially aware of the danger of rolling if you are on a hard surface. You are going to have the wheels very close to your pet's body when you use the hoist.


This big shiny machine is a "kid magnet". It has a trapeze to swing on, it goes up and down, and it rolls around. Things children might do include:

  • Rolling the hoist over your dog's tail or your baby's fingers
  • Wheeling the hoist around and breaking a window
  • Attaching the clips to a pet's neck collar and hoisting it up
  • Swinging upside down on the trapeze while a playmate lowers the hoist suddenly

The hoist will require supervision if you have children.

Other pets

It is not a good idea to have other pets around when using the hoist. They could run under the wheels while you are moving it. It is safer for them and for your dog if you shoo them away so you can operate it without distractions.

Buying and assembling the hoist

Buying a hoist

The machine in these pictures is a 1-ton engine hoist that was originally $164, marked down to $114 at Harbor Freight. Hoists come in different sizes depending on how much they can lift. Hoists that lift 2 tons cost more than those that lift 1 ton. This particular model comes with legs that fold up for easy storage, but I never use that feature as we use the hoist many times a day.

The best places to buy an engine hoist are automotive supply stores or tool stores (not building supply stores). You can also find them online using the keywords "engine hoist" or "shop crane". If you begin shopping early before your dog goes down, you may save money by finding one on sale.

This hoist weighs approximately 162 lbs and came in two boxes. If you have a back problem, you probably will not be able to carry it into the house. When I bought mine, the men at the store put it in the hatchback of my car and I drove it home. Then I opened the door that leads into the house from the garage, opened the hatchback, backed the car all the way up to the house, and simply tipped the boxes out of the car onto the floor inside. I used my foot to push them into the family room where I was going to assemble it. Another option for bringing your hoist into the house is to open the boxes while they are still in your car and carry the pieces in one at a time, however this involves more lifting.

Engine hoist boxes.jpg

Putting the hoist together

The instructions say the hoist should be assembled by two physically fit people, but I managed to do it without help. It is much easier than it looks. There aren't many pieces and they are large and easy to tell apart. The bolts are also big, there were not too many of them, and they were labeled. Some of the pieces were somewhat heavy, but could be managed by working smart. The only part that was really a physical strain to lift was the top (the piece labeled "1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, 1 ton"). It was heavy and needed to be steadied, and it would have been easier with two people.

The only tools required to assemble the hoist were a pair of pliers and a small socket set.

Hoist tools.jpg

Padding the corners

The hoist has sharp metal corners that could potentially injure your dog if he fell against them. If your dog is unsteady on his feet, it would be best to pad the corners of the base of the hoist by taping something over them.

How to operate the hoist

The hoist only has two controls, that's all there is to it. You crank a handle up and down (like an old-fashioned automobile jack) to lift the hoist, and you turn a valve to let it down. It comes with a removeable handle that works for both controls. You will see the handle has small slots on the end that fit onto the valve that lets down the hoist. The valve that lets down the hoist can also be turned with your fingers if you prefer.

Hoist controls.jpg

In the picture below, the jack handle is on the right, and the metal valve to let down the hoist is the round thing with points on the left (directly above the silver bolt).

Hoist controls closeup.jpg

Put the handle into place and try jacking up the hoist. If you are jacking it and nothing happens, turn the metal valve clockwise and try jacking it again. This time it should work. If it does not, your hoist may be low on hydraulic fluid, but it should not be if you just bought it.

After you have raised the hoist, turn the valve to let it back down. It is a good idea to practice this before using it with your pet. It will help you get a feel for how much you need to turn the valve, and how fast the hoist comes down.

Maneuvering the hoist

The hoist in these pictures is 6' long and 3' wide. You can maneuver it by leaning against it and pushing it around. It is better for your knees if you line yourself up straight before pushing on it. It moves slowly but without too much difficulty on a berber carpet with a medium pad. It does not seem to hurt the rug. Open space is needed to turn it around, so you would have problems maneuvering it in a room crowded with furniture.

Making the extension

Please read the safety information on Tipping above before reading this section.

Hoist complete.jpg

The only tool needed to make the extension is a pair of pliers.

The extension is a piece of square metal tubing with holes in it, 3' long and 1.5" in diameter, sold at the building supply store for about $20. I removed the chain-and-hook from the end of the black arm on the hoist and attached the extension with 3 bolts going through the hole where the chain had been.

Hoist extension.jpg

The square metal tubing was too long, so I pushed the end of it into the black arm and put the bolts through the midsection of the tubing. I used 1" long 3/8" diameter hex bolts because I wanted the fattest bolts that would fit through the holes so it would be as strong as possible.

Here is the trick to getting the bolts through the holes in the midsection of the tubing. I laid the square metal tubing on the counter and put 3 bolts and washers into the holes side by side for a moment (so they were correctly spaced). Then I pressed masking tape down on them and made sure it stuck to the bolts and washers.

Hoist tape bolts.jpg

Next I pulled up the masking tape and the bolts and washers came along with it. I folded the masking tape around the edges of the washers so the bolts were securely stuck to the tape. This made a 3-bolt unit.

Hoist extension bolts ready.jpg

I dropped the 3-bolt unit into the end of the square metal tubing, shook it down to the midsection where I wanted it, and used a toothpick to poke the bolts through the holes. This took about 5 minutes. After that it was a simple matter of sliding the square metal tubing into the end of the black arm, making sure the bolts came down through the hole where the chain had been, and putting on washers and nuts to hold it. I used pliers to tighten the nuts.

Technical note: You may be wondering if it would be easier to use 2" bolts and run them clear through the square metal tubing, as shown below. I tried it but the method above using 1" bolts worked better. When I used 3/8" diameter 2" bolts and slid the square metal tubing into the black arm, the bolts would not go through the chain slot because of the angle. I could get them to go through the slot if I used smaller diameter bolts such as 5/16" or 1/4" because there was a little play of the bolts in the holes, but then it was not as strong. In addition, smaller diameter bolts took smaller nuts which meant I needed double washers, one large and one small, between the nut and the chain slot, and the 2" bolts were a little short to allow a nut and two washers. The hoist you buy may be a different model, perhaps 2" bolts will work on yours.

Hoist two inch bolts.jpg

Making the trapeze

No tools were required to make the trapeze.

These are the parts that are needed.

Hoist trapeze parts.jpg

The bar is an 18" long pole sold in the lamp repair department of the building supply store. It cost about $9 but looks nice and already has holes in the ends so you do not have to do any drilling. Ask the store clerk to cut the chain for you. The long piece is 32" and the two short pieces are each 6". Here is how it looks when the parts are assembled.

Hoist trapeze.jpg

Using the hoist

Helping your dog to his feet

You may have a dog who can still stand and walk if he is helped to his feet. The engine hoist can be used to help him up. Your dog needs to be wearing a hip harness such as the Walkabout harness, or you can try a belly harness. In this picture, the dog is wearing a malewrap around his waist for urinary incontinence, and strap handles with D-rings have been sewn onto it, similar to a belly harness. He is wearing a comfort harness on his chest. The clips of the trapeze are fastened to the chest harness and to the malewrap handles. Once the dog is hoisted fully to his feet, it is easiest to let down the hoist a few inches to make unfastening the trapeze clips easier.

Hoist malewrap straps.jpg

My goal in hoisting my dog is to lift him straight up as much as possible, like a helium balloon rising. To do that, it is important to center the trapeze over the dog so lifting will be directly vertical. If your dog has some strength in his legs but cannot get up unassisted, you may find he tries to struggle to his feet as the hoist begins to raise him. My dog does this and often loses his balance, pulling the trapeze to one side or the other and doing a half circle. I found a simple way to control this extra motion. I took my dog's old leash out of the closet and attached it to the corner of the trapeze. I hold the leash or loop the handle around one of the big bolts on the hoist to provide just enough tension to steady the trapeze.

Hoist leash.jpg

Lifting your dog off the ground

If your dog uses a quad cart (wheelchair with four wheels) to get around, you may need to lift him in the air and lower him into his cart. It is important to support his body properly so he can be lifted in a safe, comfortable way. The dog in this picture is wearing a comfort harness on his chest and a Walkabout harness on his hips. The Walkabout harness supports his pelvis and keeps pressure off of his abdomen. If you have a heavy dog with a long back such as a bassett hound, he may need additional support under his belly.

Approach your dog with the hoist and let down the trapeze far enough to attach it to his harness. Fasten one clip to his chest harness, and the other clip to the handles of the Walkabout harness on his hips. Be sure the clips are closed all the way. Now crank the jack handle of the hoist and slowly lift your dog to his feet. If you are going to turn the hoist or back it up or move it, now is the time to do that while he is still touching the ground. Now jack up the hoist until your dog is high enough that you can push the cart under him, and let him down into the cart gently. As you can see, this dog is calm and comfortable while he is being lifted in this way.

Hoist air.jpg

External links

http://www.cdxetextbook.com/toolsEquip/workshop/usingWork/useenghoist.html (safety)

http://www.harborfreight.com (in the Search box use the keyword "crane" to see various hoists)